Indians love their spices; some of which are frequently used in almost every Indian dish, curries to be specific. Whereas each spice along with its unique flavor, also considers some medicinal property to it.
Spices like turmeric, dry red chilly, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and garam masala (both in solid and powder forms) are mostly used in day-to-day cuisines made in every Indian kitchen.
Masala is a hindi word that roughly translates to a combination of some chosen spices, made specially for a particular dish. Below are listed a few such masalas which is the luxury of every Indian kitchen and not only increases the flavour of our food but also takes care of our health in its unique way.
1. Garam Masala
This is one of the most used masala, whether it’s a simple potato curry or a critical kofta dish Garam Masala is ready to boost the flavour of a dish and update it with a strong aroma. It is usually added to dishes with red curries whose base is made of a paste consisting of Onion, Garlic, and Ginger.
Garam is a hindi word that translates to ‘hot’, here the hotness resembles the spiciness that is created by this masala. It is because most of the ingredients used in this particular masala are all hot spices like Cinnamon, Cardamom, Cloves, Cumin, Black peppercorns, fennel seeds, coriander, etc.
2. Panch Phoran
Panch means ‘five’, this masala is a mixture of 5 basic ground spies available in every Indian kitchen. A mix of these 5 particular spices gives a twist to some dishes to go from bland to surprisingly tasty. The 5 ingredients are; Nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds, cumin, black mustard, and fennel (each in equal parts).
Mostly in fried dishes or for tempering is when this masala is used. ‘Hing’ and ‘curry leaves’ are two either-or spices that follow this masala depending on a dish’s requirement.
3. Chaat Masala
This tangy masala is commonly used in street foods (the chaat category). This mixture has cumin, coriander, and ginger, pepper, black salt, amchur (dry mango powder), carom seeds, mint powder, and asafoetida. It comes in a powdery form and enhances the flavors of salads, snacks, and chaat varieties.
4. Biryani Masala
Biryani is one of the most famous and prestigious dishes to have become a part of Indian cuisine. It is today globally earning its identity due to its rich flavor and strong aroma.
Everyone loves biryani whether it’s chicken, mutton, shrimp, egg, or the authentic veg biryani, it makes every soul happy but, what gives this biryani its richness is its masala.
The ingredients added to this masala are; Bay leaf, coriander, shah jeera (black cumin), cumin, mace, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, black and green cardamom, star anise, black pepper, and fennel seeds. Although some people make their own version where they add or discard elements according to their preference, these spices are the basic ones that are added in the packets available in the market.
5. Sambar Masala
Sambar is a famous dish from South India. This is a spicy vegetable stew, and there is no sambar without the sambar powder. It is mostly served as a side dish for Idli or Dosa. It has a slightly tangy taste as the south Indian prefers most of their food to be.
The main ingredients of this masala are; Coriander seeds, Bengal gram, black gram, toor dal (pigeon pea), red chilies, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, cumin, black pepper, asafoetida, turmeric. It comes in powder form, easy to dissolve in the stew.
6. Pav Bhaji Masala
This Pav Bhaji is a popular street food originated from Mumbai. Pav is a hindi word for ‘buns’ and bhaji stands for a ‘mixed vegetable curry. It is one of the most famous street foods of India to have suited the taste of people all around the nation.
When food gives a sense of happiness the masalas deserve a lot of credit as well. Ingredients like Coriander, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, bay leaf, black cardamom, fennel seeds, turmeric, amchur, red chilli powder might be the reason to make the dish tasty but, the composition is as important. Many people like to make their own version of this masala at home, although the ingredients are the same the amount of each spice varies.
These are just a few mentions which are mostly used in the day-to-day Indian kitchen. Whereas, there are a lot more varieties of masalas present in Indian cooking culture. Today many companies sell these varieties of masalas with their own composition yet, a lot of houses still prefer to make their own spice mix at home. It’s the ratio of each spice in every mixture that makes the difference.
India is home to a variety of spices, for centuries the best of nature has been part of our lives taking care of our health and immunity. Whether it’s turmeric with its healing properties or cumin for its immunity-boosting properties, masalas are a major part of our culture both mentally and physically. It is our pride, our emotion, and no wonder our celebration.